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Why do voters fall for the con that “small government” is a desirable thing?

Speak to any Young Liberal and it won’t be long before you hear the phrase “nanny state”. In fact, we have a Senate inquiry into the evils of the nanny state going on right now instigated by that champion of small government, David Leyonjhelm.

Sounds good. We don’t want no stinkin’ bureaucrats telling us what to do!

We shouldn’t have to build pool fences or wear bike helmets. We shouldn’t have to vaccinate our kids and we should be able to smoke when and wherever we want. Food labelling is unnecessary and there should be no laws restricting media ownership or content. We should all carry guns so we can keep the nation safe. Free trade and tax cuts are good. Minimum wages, penalty rates, wage rises and welfare are bad.

The neo-classical view is of individual consumers and firms and does not recognise the legitimacy of collective action.

It presumes equal opportunity for all where success is dependent only on willingness to work hard and take risks.

It values, rewards, and protects the owners of the capital, the entrepreneurs willing to take a financial risk with borrowed money, but does not consider the labour and social framework on which their success depends.

Those who educate our children, who care for us when we are sick or old, who keep us safe, who volunteer to help the vulnerable, will only be judged by their productive contribution to the economy rather than to society.

The conservative government’s aim is to privatise everything and let the market rule. User pays. Work, save, invest. Don’t rely on the government to provide services, infrastructure, or a safety net.

This is apparent in the public service where the current buzz word is ‘contestability’. If a private firm can do it cheaper then outsource. This strategy has led to job losses, a decline in services and accusations of systemic rorting.

The move to rely on political advisers and strategists and to use external consultants has meant government ministers are no longer listening to their departments and the wealth of knowledge and experience of senior public servants who have served for decades has been ignored in policy making dictated by lobbyists and marketing teams.

Small government sees no value in any form of collectivism.

The common wealth, our assets, are being sold off for private investors to reap the profits. Foreign companies are making superprofits developing our resources and are now taking over our farmland, utilities and transport infrastructure. Investors have made the housing market unaffordable.

Wages and workplace conditions are under attack on many fronts – the minimum wage, penalty rates, stagnant growth, freezing the superannuation guarantee, the rise of contract employees, 457 visa workers, free trade agreements, supply chains that involve slave labour overseas and the demonisation of unions.

Public health and education are being actively undermined with an obvious preference towards private schools, hospitals and health insurance.

Welfare is no longer seen as a crucial part of a healthy society but as a drain on resources that should be directed towards tax cuts and concessions.

Wars being fought in the name of freedom seem as much about protecting capitalism as democracy.

There are few groups powerful enough to provide a collective voice against the ravages of corporate greed. Churches are being ignored, unions undermined, and governments bought. Even our right to challenge in a court of law or through legislation is being undermined. The media is largely complicit backed by economists who have scant regard for societal and environmental considerations.

The only protection left is the ballot box but are Australians willing to unite against the real enemy?


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  1. Rossleigh

    It did strike me as odd that David Leyonjhelm was complaining about “childless” people having to pay for other people’s children when people’s taxes are going to pay for his salary. I mean, if you follow the logic that people who don’t have children shouldn’t have to pay for other people’s, then surely people who don’t want government shouldn’t be taking a $200k salary from the taxpayer.

  2. babyjewels10

    Well said. I have little faith in the Australian voter.

  3. stephengb2014

    Having listened to David Lyonjhelm, a few times I start to get nauseated at the very sight of him.

    I have come to the conculsion that he has a similar ailment to Abbott, he is possibly mentally ill!

    Meanwhile terrific article Kaye Lee, you certainly have said it all in a very brief statement, can I use it, I will acknowledge you as its author?

  4. Bighead1883

    I don`t believe Australia can unite against the MSM propaganda,even people like yourself just argue inanely with even like minded individuals.
    LOTO Shorten,the instigator of 3 major wrong decisions slips to obscurity and the Greens fumble around their National 8.3% support condemning all and sundry

    The total insanity which is LNP Conservative politics in Australia has no trouble surviving in the Zionist owned MSM so brush up on your Hebrew and be ready to convert otherwise it`s DEATH to all non believers

    “You are Adam [“man”], but goyim [gentiles] are not called Adam [“man”].” Kerithoth 6b

    “The seed of the goyim is like an animal.” Sanhedrin 74b

    “All Gentile children are animals.” Yebamoth 98a

    Sharri Markson was invited to Israel at the behest of AIJAC and visited a hospital [she was heavily questioned by Mossad and shook down] where there are 500 so called FSA fighters {No such thing exists] these are ISIS and Israel openly supports ISIS as does Saudi Arabia/Turkey and NATO.

  5. Kaye Lee

    inanely – vacuously or complacently and unconsciously foolish

    Stephen I am happy for my vacuous ramblings to be shared.

  6. Terry2

    I suppose, Rossleigh, that following Leyonjhelm’s logic, anybody who didn’t vote for him should not have to contribute to his salary or his superannuation.

  7. Mick

    Leyenhelm’s support of the Anti-Anti Vaccers bill is symbolic of his contradictory illness. I personally believ vaccination to be a good thing, but Davey is forever farting outhis mouth about small government and the sovereignty of the individual only to support this.

    Ahh….vent over.

    As usual Kaye Lee, you have proven yourself to be one of Australia’s finest journalists.

    As for you Bighead…Where do the Murdochs fit into your paranoid cerebellum? Or the Chinese for that matter? They have their own mainstream media there. Is that a Zionist conspiracy too?

  8. Zathras

    Small Government is the same as the Tory fetish for Decentralisation.

    The problem with centralising information is that databases can be cross-referenced and all manner of rorts exposed.

    It doesn’t matter to them if they catch out a few welfare cheats now and then (it makes good press) as long as their own much more significant scams remain hidden.

    I remember their collective horror when the Bottom-of-the-Harbour scheme was unexpectedly revealed while they were on a vindictive union-bashing spree.

    Now the problems inherent with Part-Private infrastructure schemes are becoming apparent and maybe they will have to face up to reality when voters react against ever-rising road toll fees..

    Unfortunately I have little faith in the attention span of average voter who seldom sees beyond the one-week moving news window that rules their lives.

  9. Matters Not

    Small government sees no value in any form of collectivism.

    But this any form of collectivism which has no value, apparently does not include membership of a particular political party which has regular meetings when Parliament is in session so as to decide what collective action to take.

    That some of the youth opposed to collective action join a collective to take action against collective action is somewhat strange.

    It’s a bit like a pacifist who joins the army so as to fight for peace. Or the vegetarian who includes meat in the diet as a constant reminder of what was given up. Or the priest who has regular sex so as to remember what the vow of celibacy is all about.

  10. Miriam English

    One of the biggest problems of a small-government state ruled by big money is that the people who think it’s such a great idea are merely confirming their own biases. Of course they think it’s a good idea; they’re good at accumulating money. Naturally they think it should be the final determinant of the right to survive and that if you can’t earn money then you don’t deserve to live. This ignores the fact that we have much more than one single skill-set and that we humans are psychologically diverse.

    Some people are great at making music, or artwork, or writing, or programming computers, or building cars/houses/boats/electronics/optics, or unravelling the intricacies of the human mind, or nurturing young minds to healthy adulthood, or taking care of older members of our species, or growing other species such as plants or animals. Some of us are able to understand things smaller than atoms, or things larger than planets. Some can build and send little robots out to explore other planets. Very few of these abilities have much or anything to do with making money.

    For some people things work out okay when they are hired by someone who is good at accruing money, but for many more their skills get short shrift in a money monoculture. Just like any ecology, a monoculture based on money puts us in a very precarious position. Those blinded by their belief that money is all and bow in their worship to Baal will eventually break our society. Unfortunately their blindness will guarantee that they will never understand. Their solution will always be that we need MORE unregulated market and less government no matter how much damage they do. Even as things fall apart before their eyes they will never be able to see how over-reliance upon money will have wrecked everything.

    We need a diverse society. Money has its place there, so does government, unions, some free market, some regulations, but if any aspect gets out of control and dominates, then woe be it for us.

    As for Bighead1883… eeek! Zionists! Fear, paranoia! Jews! Hate! Eeek! Horror! Zionists!
    Oh dear… forget to take your medication today?

  11. Miriam English

    It so pisses me off that some dumb shit who is good at juggling money thinks he is much better than me, when I write novels and draw artwork, program computers in around 20 different computer languages, have a broad understanding of most of the sciences, and will probably die broke.

  12. flohri1754

    Very well put, Kaye Lee ….. AND Miriam English ….. as for David Lyonjhelm, well, now and again he says something I can agree with, but then again, as the old saying has it “even a broken (non-digital) clock is right twice a day” ……..

  13. win jeavons

    Thankyou, Kaye Lee, and Miriam English, you encourage me.

  14. Florence nee Fedup

    Sadly many Liberals will learn as they proceed through life, no matter how clever or hard they try, hard times will come when they will be glad of the so called nanny state.

  15. Wally

    Can we immediately send David Lyonjhelm and all the others who oppose child vaccination overseas to witness the suffering of children infected with polio? Make them care for kids who are suffering because they couldn’t be vaccinated so we can stamp out people promoting stupidity.

    As a 5yo in 1964 I spent months in the Children’s Hospital and to seen how many kids were disfigured by Polio was unbelievable, I will always remember my mother replying “it was the mothers fault for not taking them to be vaccinated” when I asked why all of these kids got so sick. With Polio it is not only a lengthy hospital term, limbs being amputated (sometimes multiple limbs) and incurable muscle waste. When you look at the impact of all the diseases that we immunise against it is absurd that people can be stupid enough not to immunise their kids.

  16. Alan Smith

    Wally, Lyonjhelm is PRO vaccination!!!

  17. Matters Not

    Wally, Lyonjhelm is PRO vaccination!!!

    Indeed he is. And he is being perfectly consistent with his ‘self interest’ logic. He wants them to be vaccinated so HE is not at risk from the ‘other’. Who cares about the kids?

    Re the ‘guns for all’ argument. The pity is that he fails to see that by ‘arming’ everyone so they can ‘protect’ themselves, the reality becomes that all are ‘less safe’. Just look at the US. Not the claims of greater safety which Lyonjhelm advances at every opportunity but the actual outcomes which he fails to acknowledge. And is never questioned on.

  18. Stephen

    A very well written piece Kaye…this scourge has been upon us since the 80’s and despite evidence that privatization often leads to corruption. People forget what it was like when everyone could get a job because we employed people local people to do stuff. If they were young we paid them bugger all but they learnt their trade…remember apprentices and if their was a skills shortage incentives were offered and people learnt. What a crazy idea to give people jobs and pay them a fair wage!

  19. Wally

    Sorry for that misunderstanding, whenever I read about people objecting to vaccinating kids my blood boils, I have seen too much of the suffering that occurs as a result.

  20. Matters Not

    Wally, when I saw the reference I also thought he was again about the ‘nanny’ state and his particular and peculiar definition of ‘freedom’. But he wasn’t about that is this instance.

    His ‘judgement’ was again, much more ‘base’ and basic. It was all about himself. One of his heroes is Ayn Rand who claims that altruistic acts are really about being ‘selfish’. See a ‘drowning child’ and rescue same. It’s only done for ‘selfish reasons’ (so as to look good in the eyes of the other.)

    For what may be ‘human’ to you and me is actually just a ‘selfish’ act, motivated by ‘self interest’. Go figure.

    But don’t underestimate the influence her book, The Virtue of Selfishness . And other works.

    It’s the ‘bible’ that drives the IPA.

  21. Miriam English

    Stephen, I remember the days when there was pretty-much full employment. Many of the extremist capitalists hated it because if they mistreated people their staff just quit. There was always another job available with people only too eager to pay you. It was a pretty amazing time, looking back.

    Nowadays it seems every trick is applied to take us as far as possible away from that to a state, to where people live in permanent fear of losing their job (if they can get one) so have to put up with any kind of immoral crap from their employers. (I feel compelled to say, as an aside that I have worked for many good and moral people. Not all bosses are total shit-heads.)

    It is difficult to understand how people like Lyonjhelm stay stuck on a stupid idea such as that arming everybody with weapons makes society safer when the evidence to the contrary is so damn easy to see. With USA having surpassed one mass shooting per week and nearing one per day, it amazes me that nominally sane people can genuinely believe guns make them safer. But then the human capacity for selective blindness has always been one of our most dazzling “abilities” — we only have to look at the millions of people in the roughly one thousand major world religions, with each one insisting with impossible certainty that theirs is only that is right.

    With all the wonderful things we can do, I sometimes despair of us.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Leyonjhelm was voting to withhold family payments from people who don’t have their children vaccinated.

    “The least they can do is immunise their bundles of dribble and sputum, so they don’t make the rest of us sick.”

  23. Matters Not

    so they don’t make the rest of us sick

    rest of us. Noted that as well. So there is an us in his collective mind, which is only revealed when his guard drops. A recognition there’s an other? Probably just a ‘slip of the tongue’. Doesn’t fit the well developed position that it’s all about me.

    BTW if he gets hit by a bus, don’t rush to help. Unless if it’s in your interest to ‘look good’. You know, weak self concept and all that.

  24. Matters Not

    Always interested in those who think that they don’t need the ‘other’ in any shape or form, unless of course it involves a ‘financial transaction’ or an opportunity to improve one’s ‘self concept’ via helping the ‘other’, so as to ‘look good’..

    So to this ‘insight’: I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am

    But of course there’s no ‘other’, no ‘society’ and the like. Unless of course, the ‘theory’ you have recognises same. Then the evidence abounds.

  25. Pingback: Why do voters fall for the con that “small government” is a desirable thing? – » The Australian Independent Media Network | olddogthoughts

  26. Sean

    Kaye I’m with you on this, but, I would like to be able to ride my pushbike without a helmet.

  27. Sen Nearly Ile

    We fall for slogans that are easy to remember and make sense. There is no simple answer to the logic of ‘small gov’?
    The attempt to put the lie to the abbutt’s campaign failed because labor did not arm us with contrary slogans and we floundered.with complicated arguments to stop the boats, etc.
    Little billy is trapped between the loonies and turnball deals and his reticence to put the boot into robb and turnball’s women

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